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Independence native Dustin Vanwinkle serves aboard U.S. Navy aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower

An Independence native and Simon Kenton graduate, Airman Dustin Vanwinkle is serving on one of the world’s largest warships, the U.S. Navy aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69).

Vanwinkle works as an aviation boatswain’s mate aboard the Norfolk-based ship, a Nimitz-class nuclear-powered aircraft carrier and one of only ten operational aircraft carriers in the Navy today. Aviation boatswain’s mates are the sailors responsible for launching and recovering naval aircraft quickly and safely from land or ships. This includes aircraft handling, fire fighting and salvage and rescue operations.

Aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69)

“I love to direct aircraft,” Vanwinkle said. “The most rewarding part of my job is working as a team to complete the mission.”

Sailors’ jobs are highly varied aboard Eisenhower. Approximately 3,200 men and women make up the ship’s company, and they keep all parts of the aircraft carrier running smoothly. They do everything from washing dishes and preparing meals to handling weaponry and maintaining the nuclear reactors. Another 2,000 sailors comprise the air wing, the people who fly and maintain the aircraft aboard the ship.

Eisenhower, like each of the Navy’s aircraft carriers, is designed for a 50-year service life. When the air wing is embarked, the ship carries more than 70 attack fighter jets, helicopters and other aircraft, all of which take off from and land aboard the carrier at sea. Powerful catapults slingshot the aircraft off the bow of the ship, and those planes land upon their return to the aircraft carrier by snagging a steel cable with an arresting hook that protrudes from the rear of the aircraft. All of this makes Eisenhower a self-contained mobile airport and strike platform, often the first response to a global crisis because of an aircraft carrier’s ability to operate freely in international waters anywhere on the world’s oceans.

Dustin Vanwinkle, United States Navy.

“I have met a lot of good people here on Eisenhower,” Vanwinkle said. “I meet new people every day.”

Eisenhower was commissioned in 1977 and named after former president and Army general Dwight D. Eisenhower, who distinguished himself through service and leadership during World War II. As the supreme commander of Allied Forces in Western Europe during World War II, Eisenhower led the massive invasion of Nazi-occupied Europe on D-Day, June 6, 1944.

“Every Sailor aboard the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower plays an integral part in our success, from the engineering and reactor spaces to the galley and flight deck, and everywhere in between, and I couldn’t be more proud,” said Capt. Paul Spedero, Jr., commanding officer of Ike. “Our many successes are built on their sacrifices and the strength they provide each and every day.”

As a member of one of the U.S. Navy’s most relied upon assets, Vanwinkle and other Eisenhower sailors know they are part of a legacy that will last beyond their lifetimes.

“Being on the front line of the defense of my country and the people that I care about is important to me,” Vanwinkle said. “I feel that I am part of a greater cause.”

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From Navy Office of Community Outreach

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